A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN 16}
off and began to row with short strokes. Cutting the cur-
rent at an angle, the boat crossed the river in short jerks
to the low, bright green bank on the other side. The girl
sat in the stern in deep reverie with her hand over the
gunwale, allowing the water to run through her fingers.
"Uncle Arkasha, don't you remember us?" asked Alexei.
The ferryman looked at the young faces with indiffer-
ence and said: "I don't."
"Why, I am Alyoshka Heresyev. You taught me how
to catch gudgeon near the sandbanks with a fork!"
"Perhaps I did. There were lots of nippers like you
playing about here. I can't remember them all."
The boat passed a pier at which was moored a broad-
bowed cutter bearing the proud name Aurora on its
peeling bows, and cut into the sandy beach with a crunch.
"This is my place now. I don't work for the munici-
pality any more, I'm on my own. You know what I
mean—private enterprise," explained Uncle Arkasha,
getting into the water to push the boat up the bank. But
his wooden stumps sank into the sand, the boat was
heavy and he could not shift it. "Youll have to jump,"
he said phlegmatically.
"How much for the ride?" asked Alexei.
"I leave it to you. You ought to pay a little extra, you
look so happy. But I don't remember you, that I don't."
Jumping from the boat they wet their feet, and Olya
suggested that they take their shoes off. They did so, and
the touch of their bare feet on the moist, warm river
sand made them feel so happy and free that they wanted
to run, leap and caper on the grass like children.
"Catch me!" cried Olya, darting off across the shal-
lows towards the low, emerald-green meadow, her
strong, tanned legs flashing as she ran.
Alexei ran after her, seeing in front of him only the
motley patch formed by her light, brightly-coloured
frock. As he ran the wild flowers and plumes of horse
sorrel painfully whipped his bare feet and he felt the
soft, moist, sun-warmed earth yielding under his soles.
It seemed to him to be a matter of vital importance to
catch Olya, that a great deal in their future lives depend-
ed upon it, and that here, on this flowery meadow, amidst
the intoxicating fragrance, it would be easy to tell her